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Abortion Opponents Jeopardize Arizona’s Medicaid Expansion By Pushing To Defund Planned Parenthood

By Tara Culp-Ressler  

"Abortion Opponents Jeopardize Arizona’s Medicaid Expansion By Pushing To Defund Planned Parenthood"

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a vocal opponent of President Obama’s health reform law, surprised her Republican colleagues when she announced her support for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion at the beginning of this year. Since then, Brewer has been attempting to broker a deal with the legislators in her state, who will ultimately need to approve the legislation to expand the public health insurance program.

And as negotiations over Arizona’s Medicaid expansion plan go back and forth, some of the state’s powerful lobbyists are attempting to attach amendments to the proposal to suit their own interests — including a totally unrelated attack on Planned Parenthood, which has become a symbol in the GOP’s ongoing crusade against women’s health.

Obamacare proponents warn that additional amendments could threaten to derail the whole expansion process altogether, since Democratic lawmakers may not be willing to pass a bill with unrelated riders. Nonetheless, one of the state’s most powerful lobbying groups is jumping on the opportunity to target Planned Parenthood, regardless of the potential consequences for Arizona’s low-income residents who may be forced to go without health care if the expansion doesn’t go through:

The Center for Arizona Policy is using an opinion from the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal-defense organization, to argue that the draft Medicaid legislation should be amended to disqualify the non-profit women’s health provider Planned Parenthood from receiving public money. [...]

[Cathi Herrod, the center’s president] said her organization, a conservative Christian-based group that wields influence with GOP lawmakers, is not taking a position on Medicaid expansion and wouldn’t comment on the possibility that such an amendment could sink the plan.

“Our request is to include language guaranteeing that no funding to an abortion provider results from Medicaid expansion,” Herrod said. “Any dollar that goes to an abortion provider for any service frees up another dollar to subsidize abortion.”

Planned Parenthood gets a fraction of its funding from Medicaid but could pick up more patients if the state broadens eligibility. Although Herrod argues that funding to the clinics indirectly supports abortion, Planned Parenthood officials say they lose money on every Medicaid patient because of reimbursement levels.

The proposed amendment to Arizona’s Medicaid expansion is very similar to a measure that Brewer signed into law last year, which also sought to prevent federal Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood. Last month, a federal judge blocked that law from taking effect — since state-level Medicaid programs cannot exclude qualified providers from providing essential heath care to the low-income Americans who need it, Arizona is not permitted to target Planned Parenthood simply because the national organization performs abortions.

But even Arizona’s failed record won’t deter the abortion opponents in the state from continuing to go after Planned Parenthood. Bryan Howard, the president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, sharply criticized the Center for Arizona Policy and Herrod for pursuing a “failed legislative strategy” that could jeopardize the state’s Medicaid expansion. “She has to know that she is putting health-care access for 400,000 people at risk,” Howard told the Arizona Republic.

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